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Ransomware Gang Hacks Prescription Processing Nationwide

A ransomware gang thought to have been crippled by law enforcement has snarled prescription processing for millions of Americans this week, forcing some to choose between paying prices hundreds or thousands of dollars above insurance-adjusted rates or going without lifesaving medicine, reports the Washington Post. Insurance giant UnitedHealthcare Group said hackers struck its Change Health business unit, which routes prescription claims from pharmacies to companies that determine whether patients are covered by insurance and what they should pay. The hackers stole data about patients, encrypted company files and demanded money to unlock them, prompting the company to shut down most of its network as it worked to recover.


Change Health and a rival, CoverMyMeds, are the two biggest players in the so-called switch business, charging pharmacies a small fee for funneling claims to insurers. “When one of them goes down, obviously it’s a major problem,” said Patrick Berryman of the National Community Pharmacists Association. A notorious Russian-speaking ransomware ring known as ALPHV claimed responsibility for the Feb. 21 breach, part of a string of attacks that included several hospitals. The issues underscore the continued fragility of critical infrastructure nearly three years after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline prompted a shutdown of the biggest network of fuel pipelines in the United States. Service stations, particularly in the east, ran short of fuel as consumers rushed to gas up. Since then, U.S. officials and international partners have announced operations that have included hacking the gangs, taking over their chats with business associates and, in some cases, making arrests. ALPHV was targeted in a December takedown that proved short-lived. UnitedHealth estimated that more than 90 percent of the nation’s 70,000-plus pharmacies have had to alter how they process electronic claims as a result of the Change Health outage.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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